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Last Updated:  Saturday, 29 March, 2003, 11:32 GMT
Charles has hernia operation
 Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker-Bowles
The prince was accompanied to hospital by Camilla Parker-Bowles
Prince Charles has left a west London hospital after a 24-hour stay for a routine hernia operation.

The Prince of Wales smiled and waved to well-wishers as he left King Edward VII hospital, joking: "Hernia today, gone tomorrow."

The prince has cancelled all engagements for the week to recuperate and will stay at Highgrove before travelling to Balmoral next weekend.

The 54-year-old is thought to have injured himself laying hedges in the gardens at his Gloucestershire estate, Highgrove.

Wearing a grey suit and a blue shirt, he said goodbye to the matron who had cared for him during his stay and was accompanied by bodyguards.

He walked to his waiting car unaided as he left the hospital at around 1030GMT on Saturday.

HERNIAS
Appear as a lump when the intestines are pushed through the abdominal muscle wall
Feel like "something giving way" followed groin pain
Can be caused by heavy lifting, coughing, vigorous exercise or even sex
Suffered by many sportsmen including Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer and Jeremy Guscott
Treated by more than 100,000 NHS operations every year

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "As you would expect after a fairly routine operation the Prince of Wales was very cheerful as he left hospital and is looking forward to resting this weekend in Highgrove."

Hernia operations on men are the most common undertaken on the NHS with more than 100,000 each year.

Plans for a ski holiday in the Swiss Alps at Easter have been put on hold - although he had already said he would not go to Klosters if there was a war in Iraq.

Despite the hernia injury, Charles had been carrying out engagements as normal.

Rural projects

Ahead of the surgery on Friday he hosted a seminar at Highgrove on initiatives to tackle problems facing rural communities.

The three projects - Dales Action for Rural Enterprise, The Northern Fells Rural Project and YP2-Clay - were launched by Prince Charles in 1999.

In a foreword in a Countryside Agency report, Charles said the schemes had surpassed expectations.

Prince Charles
Charles was working up to the operation

"The people involved in the projects - the community leaders, the rural champions, the volunteers, the mentors, the young people - are the real inspiration," he said.

"They have shown what can be done and that a noticeable difference can be made. I hope that their achievements will inspire others to follow the example they have set."

In August 2001 the Prince of Wales needed hospital treatment after being knocked unconscious when he fell from his horse during a polo match.

Six months earlier he fractured a bone in his shoulder when he fell off a horse during a fox hunt.

And in 1990 Charles needed considerable treatment after breaking his right arm in another polo match fall.




SEE ALSO:
Hernia
11 Mar 03 |  Medical notes
Prince Charles hurt playing polo
03 Aug 01 |  UK News
Prince's unlucky breaks
07 Jan 01 |  UK News


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